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19-09-2012 | General practice | Article

Antiwasting supplements provide moderate improvements in child health

Abstract

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medwireNews: Study results show that ready-to-use supplementary food (RUSF), provided to children at risk for malnutrition as part of a general food distribution program, does not significantly improve child weight.

However, moderate improvements in hemoglobin level and height were observed in the study, as well as a small reduction in the risk for diarrhea and fever.

"Recently, operational organizations active in child nutrition in developing countries have suggested that blanket feeding strategies be adopted to enable the prevention of child wasting," say Lieven Huybrgets (Ghent University, Belgium) and colleagues, but "evidence is lacking as to the effectiveness of such preventive interventions."

To test the efficacy of RUSF at preventing child wasting, Huybrgets and team carried out a randomized controlled study in 1038 children, aged 6 to 36 months, living in Abeche, Chad.

The children were randomly assigned to lipid-based RUSF 46 g daily in addition to their normal diet (n=598) for 4 months or normal diet alone (n=440). All the children were included in a general food distribution program providing staple foods to vulnerable families.

Addition of RUSF over 4 months did not significantly influence risk for wasting, as the incidence was similar in the two groups (incidence risk ratio=0.86).

The team did observe a modest, but significant gain in height-for-age of 0.03 Z-score per month in children in the intervention group. Children given RUSF also had an average hemoglobin concentration that was 3.8 g/L higher than that of children in the control group, resulting in a 48% reduction in the risk for anemia in these children.

Episodes of self-reported diarrhea and fever were reduced by 29.3% and 22.5%, respectively, in the intervention group compared with controls.

Although addition of RUSF to the diet of children at risk for malnutrition provided some health benefits, "we could not find clear evidence that adding RUSF to a household food ration distribution of staple foods was more effective in preventing acute malnutrition," write the authors in PLoS Medicine.

"Other context-specific alternatives for preventing acute malnutrition should therefore be investigated," they say.

medwireNews (www.medwire-news.md) is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Helen Albert, Senior medwireNews Reporter

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